Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One of the more practical results I got from the sesshin was the fact that I've finally been able to start work on quitting cigarettes. When I first stumbled on to Zen and Buddhism, I had recently reached a point in my personal life where I had given up drinking and smoking the not-tobacco. Finding that one of the precepts advises against abusing intoxicants was one of the first things that really endeared me to this path. However, I was struggling for a long time with whether or not cigarettes were something I should quit as well. Most of the people I asked about it said that cigarettes are an attachment and that I should examine how I was using them, and before sesshin I was at a point where I intellectually recognized that they were a crutch and that the money I spent on buying a pack every day could be put to a million better uses, but I couldn't make the leap and actually stop, mostly because a lot of my friends smoke and it's more or less impossible to have everyone around you light up and not reach for a cigarette yourself.

I didn't bring a pack with me to sesshin, figuring that it was probably a bad idea to do so and that if I wanted to quit there are fewer circumstances better than being at a silent Buddhist retreat for three days. Since I've come back, I've had all of one cigarette before I took the pack that I had and gave it to a friend. It's stressful but knowing that I went without for three days is a huge huge help. This morning I woke up with a craving but didn't indulge and went straight into my morning zazen sitting. When I finished, the craving was gone, but every time i go outside, I unconsciously think "I'm walking, time for a cigarette." It's less of a chemical addiction at this point it seems and more of a mental habit that needs to be broken. I'm going to see where this goes and hopefully withing the week not even be thinking of it anymore.

Just a late morning observation.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Came back from sesshin (a meditation retreat) It was nothing like I expected at all. I'll admit, in my ignorance, I thought "I've been doing this meditation thing for like half a year now. I'm a pro! This should be easy and everyone else is going to sit in awe of me" Like I said, this was not what I expected.

At first, I was positively terrified. I was surrounded by people who had been meditating for and years and decades. They were so at peace in their sitting, and I for some reason lost the ability to even follow my breath or sit without destroying my back. I imagined that they were all judging me, and that as soon as sesshin was over they would talk on their car rides home about that kid in the third row who totally was definitely not a good Zen student. About half way through I realized the voices of judgment were not the other people at the retreat, it was me. By the end, I was glad that I went. The other meditators were not there to look down on my lack of polish, they were there to support me. I know that sounds corny, but it's true.

I also learned that enlightenment is like taking a shit, but that's a post for another time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I went to an anarchist book fair and march\dance party\ riot last weekend. In some ways it felt like coming home. But mostly a few friends and myself sat on the sidelines and complained about the young whippersnappers and how they didn't understand anything and about how we were so much cooler back in the day. Key quote of the event: "I knew anarchy, I was a close personal friend of anarchy, and, you sir, are no anarchy." I don't know if it's the meditation or getting older, but I can't get behind smashing random windows anymore. If you break someone's car window, they don't get pissed off at the government or want to learn more about your politics, they just think "Hey! Some asshole just broke my car window!" and if anything get pissed off at you. One of my friends and I brought down to a karmic level, if you initiate an action and use any sort of negative tactic, you've immediately shot yourself in the foot and will be unable to accomplish anything. A lot of my friends from that crowd have moved to spiritual paths that don't involve any drugs, which was interesting as I was expecting to feel like the odd one out. Still, it was a good time, and I was able to pick up some interesting stuff.

On a side note, I'm going to sesshin (a Zen retreat) for the first time next week. I know what to expect somewhat, but at the same time have no idea what's going to happen. I'm excited about it nonetheless, and am in the process of building my meal set for the retreat. I'll post about it when I get back.